Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heavy Metals

A few years back, there was a widespread news story about a man who’s skin turned a bright shade of blue. He was taking a home-made colloidal silver remedy which he thought would be healthy. After a while, the silver started to build up in his system, causing a condition called argyria, which turned his skin blue. Silver is one of a group of elements known as “heavy metals” and in even small quantities, these metals can lead to big problems. This story helps to illustrate how profound an impact heavy metals can have on your body.

From Arsenic to Zinc, heavy metal elements are an emerging topic in health. Mercury is perhaps the most well known heavy metal, and you’ve likely heard warnings about seafood which contains this toxic element. Even exposure to minuscule levels can add up (or bio-accumulate) over time, causing chronic illness. But there are many other heavy metals which can have extremely negative effects on your health.

While heavy metal toxicity may be obvious, as in the blue man example or a toxic industrial exposure, the slow incremental build up of heavy metals is often overlooked by most health care practitioners. Unfortunately, chronic heavy metal toxicity can lead to many vague and yet serious problems. These problems can range from headaches to hair loss, and relief can only be obtained upon ridding your body of these excess heavy metals.

So how can you tell if you have an excessive build up of heavy metals and how can this be treated if you do?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Antioxidants and Free Radicals


We generally think of oxygen as the stuff of life. After all, if you can’t breathe oxygen, you die. Oxygen is a vital part of respiration and of life itself, but it also has a significant down side. Oxygen is a highly reactive element, which means that it loves to combine and react with other molecules. This is very useful for driving the chemical engines that keep us alive, but byproducts of these reactions (free radicals) can cause significant damage and destruction to living tissue (cell membranes, DNA, etc.). While we absolutely need oxygen to live, we also need some kind of protection from oxygen (and free radicals) in order to prevent the damage it can cause.  

Oxygen may not seem like it would be particularly dangerous to us. But, for an idea of just how damaging oxygen can be, consider that rust is formed when oxygen interacts with iron (i.e. the iron “oxidizes”). While the cells in a human body are different from a piece of iron, the oxidation in this example is very similar to what happens in cells. This “oxidation” reaction (on a larger scale) is also what causes most fires to burn; chemicals (like wood) oxidize and release energy causing physical damage to the surrounding material. Clearly oxidizing reactions are very powerful and potentially dangerous. This is the way that oxygen can damage cells and DNA leading to cell death and premature aging.

To solve this “oxygen” problem, humans evolved the ability to make antioxidants. To understand what an antioxidant does, you just have to look at the word itself. Breaking it down, “anti” means against and “oxidant” basically means a chemical with a reactive form of oxygen. You need antioxidants to protect your body from “oxidative stress” (the cascade of damage done by reactive oxygen molecules created in your body).

Fortunately, antioxidants can prevent and protect us from most of this damage. But what are antioxidants and how can you get or make more of them in your body? What do free radicals have to do with all this and how can you minimize their formation and protect yourself and your health?